Germany to end unofficial tolerance of polygamy

'No one who comes to us has the right to put their cultural roots, or their religious beliefs, above our laws,' says justice minister

Emma Henderson@Emmalouisehendy
Thursday 16 June 2016 15:16
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German Minister of Justice Heiko Maas (C) speaks during a session of the German Bundestag in Berlin
German Minister of Justice Heiko Maas (C) speaks during a session of the German Bundestag in Berlin

Germany is to end its unofficial tolerance of polygamy - including marriages involving minors, the country's justice minister has vowed.

Heiko Maas said the move was designed to prevent people in Germany committing to more than one marriage.

“No one who comes to us has the right to put their cultural roots, or their religious beliefs, above our laws,” Mr Maas told Bild newspaper.

“For that reason multiple marriages cannot be recognised in Germany.”

Polygamy is a criminal offence in Germany, but Bild alleged German authorities “often look the other way” if a migrant brings several wives to the country.

Mr Maas said arranged marriages also needed to be addressed, especially in cases where underage girls were involved.

“We cannot tolerate forced marriages,” he said.

According to Unicef, there are 39,000 child marriages every day in the world.

Authorities are unable to register more than one wife to the same man, which has proved difficult and causes other problems such as listing other wives as single mothers and the distribution of inheritance.

In 2013, Germany’s president Joachim Gauck became an honorary godfather to a baby of a couple where the man had more than one wife. Under the law, parents can apply for the status if they have seven children as part of the president’s duties to support families with multiple children.

What marriage would be like if we followed the bible

A Christian Democratic Union MP called for the president to renounce the title on the grounds of polygamy being illegal.

Polygamy, where a man has multiple wives, is legal in much of the Muslim world including the Middle East, Indonesia, and almost all of Africa.

In 2015, India’s Supreme Court ruled out polygamy for Muslims, stating it was not a fundamental right for followers of the religion. Having more than one wife is illegal in US, but is still quite widely practiced in Utah, where there are said to be around 30,000 polygamists.

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